Enough with the jibba jabba and on with the journey! Since we had been on the road pretty hardcore for the past few weeks, we decided to cut a few destinations out of our trip and head down south to chill out at everybody’s favourite spot in China: beautiful Yangshou.
View from the hostel rooftop. Told ya.
Our favourite river swimming spot.
We stayed at a place called Monkey Jane’s which had a decent guesthouse and a bar with a good atmosphere, if only the owner wasn’t so crazy…daily she would threaten to throw us out of the guesthouse, for excuses ranging from “You stole my speaker cord” to “You won’t get naked after losing to me at beer pong”. You heard it from the source…bat shit crazy!
We had a week in Yangshou, so we rented some motorbikes to jam around the countryside and check out a few spots. What we didn’t know was that motorbike rental in China is much different than most of SE Asia. For one thing, it was about 6 times as expensive. For another, we were recommended the petrol scooters because they “go faster”. We were not told that “faster” was 50 km/h and that the wheel diameter of these things was about a 12 inches. It was like riding a kids bike! When you’re used to ripping around the Philippines at almost 100 klicks on semi automatic bikes (and that was me being a chicken on the throttle!) , this was child’s play! Imagine my luck when my petrol bike broke down, and I was given an electric bike instead. Good for the environment: yes. Good for my need for speed: topping out at 30 klicks riding an open throttle…not quite. It’s gonna be a long day of riding!
Curtis climbed a random pole at the tip top peak of the mountain. Why? He had shoes.
On the way back down the mountain, Curtis fell off a cliff or something and sprained his ankle maybe. I thought he was kidding. Regardless, the old lady who was trying to sell us postcards fashioned him a bamboo walking stick and he took hours walking down the thousands of steps like some old wise man coming down off the mountain to impart words of wisdom to the world. Unfortunately, the only words of wisdom that came out of his mouth were “Stop taking pictures of me, asshole.”
We also hit up Dragon Bridge, a popular spot to jump into the river below:
Doesn’t look much like a dragon to me. But the water hurt when I landed. It’s higher than it looks, I tells ya.
Then I swam across the river to make friends with a water buffalo. Mission failed.
On the way home we passed a fireworks shop, and Curtis – being Curtis – could not resist buying what would have been hundreds of dollars of fireworks back home…luckily in China it only worked about to $30 or $40. That night we took a water taxi to an abandoned plot on the other side of the river and set off all the fireworks in view of the rooftop bar of the hostel. What the people on the roof DIDN’T see was when the giant box of fireworks knocked itself onto it’s side and began shooting balls of exploding light in every direction! I saw them start to shoot out over the river, exploding just a few feet above the water, getting closer and closer to the boat. In the intermittent light I could see the boat driver running for his life away from the ruckus, which is when I decided to make my own break for it once the explosives turned their sights on me! I start sprinting off to the right, dodging bursts and laughing uproariously as I periodically looked around for everyone else. Curtis and Sam were closer than I was to the fireworks, lighting them off, and I could see them alternating between hitting the deck, running for cover, and laughing their asses off as line after line of exploding phosphorus and magnesium shells zip over their heads in a haphazard free for all reminiscent of some battle in Vietnam! When the melee was over, we all stopped to catch our breath, more from the incessant laughing than from any running we did! Sam finally caught up to us and informed us that he had had no clue where anyone was, and that he was just running towards our laughter for safety! Good thing we thought it was funny! Wow that was a good time! The girls didn’t quite agree with us on that fact. Let’s do it again tomorrow!!!
The best thing about this place was by far the beer pong. They would have twice weekly tournaments, where the “winner takes all” of the pot (actually just a fraction of it, once Jane collected her unannounced dues). Regardless, it was a lot of fun, and Curtis and I became the Canadian team to be reckoned with, on occasion even destroying the bartenders (who, understandably, played a lot of beer pong). One game we simultaneously scored a double bounce and an air shot in the SAME cup, forcing the other team to drink 5 cups in one go AND give us a free turn! I guess I would have to explain the rules of beer pong for most of you to understand that, so you’ll just have to trust me that it was a good shot. In one singles tournament, by some twist of fate, Curtis and I were matched up against each other for a good old Canadian showdown! It was Canadian elimination round of beerpong. The mood was tense, the crowd ecstatic, as the two evenly matched Canadians stepped up the table to see who would move on in the elimination beer pong tournament, winner take all!
Ok so I lost, but it wasn’t by THAT much, and I swear we are more or less evenly matched. If I HAD to lose, it should have been to Curtis. He lost the next round anyway, he sucks. What a waste of money.
So before we knew Jane was crazy, she invited us on an adventure out into the country to visit her parents and have a meal out of town. We all climbed into an early 90’s Dodge Caravan and headed out on a road that was clearly designed for a 4×4. In good weather. In bad weather perhaps some kind of tank. We got to the house just as the rain started to fall in earnest, so our ride there merely consisted of destroying the shocks of Jane’s brother’s poor Dodge. As soon as we got inside the house, the antenna on the roof was struck by lightning and a deafening peal of thunder rolled around the countryside. We began to get the feeling that we would not be leaving any time soon!
So we ate dinner instead.
Countryside. Pretty, na?
Not so pretty on the way home…mostly because we had to literally take apart local farmer’s stone fences to form some sort of road under the wheels of the van because they were so submerged in mud.
The mud was so thick we couldn’t wear shoes or they would just be sucked off our feet as we were pushing the van through the countryside. The best part was being the dude behind the wheel well when the driver hit the gas and splattered mud from ankles to forehead. Too bad the girls didn’t take the time to get a picture of us while we were playing in the mud =P
While in Yangshou we heard about this sweet, cheap-compared-to-home hot air balloon ride you can take over the limestone mountains, giving you an exceptional view of the river winding through the massive rock formations. We were even told that some drivers will take you right down to the river and dip the basket in the water, skipping along in good fun. Well we were skipping along somewhere all right, but it sure as poop wasn’t on a river.
Not surprisingly, that flame is really hot.
Look ma, no haze!
So we’re flying along peacefully, enjoying the scenery (although it was a bit hazy when the sun rose), and we start to approach some higher elevations. It isn’t a windy day, but you can tell that we are moving along at a decent clip for a giant oversized balloon. All of a sudden the driver starts giving us tips.
Driver: “Bend your knees when we land.”
Us: “Uhhh…ok…weird thing to say in the middle of the flight…we aren’t even close to the clearing where we started.”
Driver: “No, we land here.”
Us: “HERE? Here where? In that tiny clearing there?? On top of a mountain, in the middle of nowhere? There aren’t even any roads!”
Driver: “Don’t worry, we land in the trees!”
Curtis: “I thought you asked him to dip us in the RIVER! He sure one upped you with this forest!”
Play along for a moment here. Close your eyes and picture a hot air balloon landing. You may have an image in your head of a hot air balloon descending slowly towards the earth and gracefully alighting upon the ground. This is not how hot air balloons land in even the slightest wind. Keep in mind these things have no brakes. Or a steering wheel for that matter. Which is probably how we ended up crashing through a forest on a mountain in the middle of nowhere. It was not the softest landing, skidding along the ground, smacking into saplings and pines that raked you with needles and branches until we finally came to a stop.
Driver (after crash): “Is this your first balloon ride?”
Jeff: “Yeah…is it yours?!”
We had to recruit the help of the local farmer whose mountain we landed on to cut us a path out of our thicket and tow us out of the trees into a clearing where we could let the balloon down.
Unhappy campers…well, only until we heard that the rescue crew was coming to pick us up with beer! I bet they’ve got a few flats waiting at the office for just such an occasion.